Hartley Sawyer (Photo: Katie Yu/The CW)

The best thing about “The Elongated Knight Rises” is the absence of any DeVoe-related activity. I didn’t realize just how much of a drag that arc had become until it basically vanished for a week, give or take a few references in a conversation between Iris and Barry. Instead, this week’s episode is split roughly evenly between Barry’s dour prison life and the more fun (though not quite as much fun as it could have been) tangle between Team Flash and the Trickster.

It’s not Mark Hamill’s Trickster, which is one reason the episode fails to live up to its potential. Instead it’s Axel Walker (Devon Graye), the son of Hamill’s James Jesse, sprung from Iron Heights by his mother, Zoe Clark, the original Trickster’s sidekick Prank. (Just as Hamill reprised his role from the 1990 version of The Flash, Corrine Bohrer returns to play the role she originated on that show.) As in his first appearance back in season one, Axel comes off as a bratty imitation of the original, more campy than witty. Still, he and Prank make appropriate foils for Ralph, who has his coming-out party this week as “Central City’s funniest new hero, the Stretchy Man.”

Ralph first takes front and center when he thwarts a hostage situation by absorbing a bomb blast, one of several such incidents leading him to believe he is invincible. The fickle populace of Central City is, as far as we can tell, not at all curious about what has become of their longtime guardian the Flash, and left unanswered is the question of where the hell Kid Flash has gone and why he hasn’t returned to take Barry’s place while he’s away. We now know what we’ve suspected ever since Wally took off on his vision quest: Keiynan Lonsdale is joining the cast of Legends Of Tomorrow. That sounded like a good idea back when The Flash had a glut of speedsters on the payroll, but now it just plays like horrible timing. With Barry sidelined, what better time for Kid Flash to shine?

Devon Graye, Connie Behrer (Photo: Katie Yu/The CW)

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That’s not the case, however, so it’s up to Ralph to pick up the slack, which he’s willing to do as long as he believes he can’t be hurt. Once the Trickster burns him with his patented Axid concoction, however, Ralph loses interest in the hero game, electing instead to drop in on Barry at Iron Heights in hopes of bringing him back into the fold. The prison walls may prevent Barry from participating in super-heroics, but apparently there’s no force on earth that can stop him from giving pep talks. Barry convinces him that fear is part of the gig, and that there are worse feelings, like having the ability to help someone and knowing you didn’t do it. That opens the door for the most entertaining part of the hour, with the B-team of Vibe, Killer Frost, and Ralph taking on the Trickster and Prank. The stretchy effects have been used sparingly to date, but Ralph’s potential is unleashed a bit more here and the visuals are just cartoony-wacky enough to work.

That leaves Barry’s adventures in Iron Heights, such as they are. This storyline is frustrating for any number of reasons. Barry knows he’s innocent and is serving no noble purpose by keeping the Flash out of commission so he can serve his sentence. Even if he insists on doing that, he’s, y’know, the Flash, so he can be in and out of his cell long enough to knock the Trickster for a loop before anyone catches on. (I mean, we just saw him have an endless conversation with Iris in the courtroom last week that no one else even noticed.) We know he’s in no real danger from the prison gang threatening him this week, and indeed he dispatches them in short order. And for whatever reason, the same guy who has a revolving door on STAR Labs and tells anyone he’s known for five minutes his secret identity decided he absolutely cannot reveal he is the Flash to save himself (and the innocents who may suffer while he’s locked up). It’s all time-killing nonsense.

In theory there’s some fun to be had from seeing Team Flash operate without their titular hero, and we get (pardon the pun) flashes of that this week. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Barry’s prison stint is just a delaying tactic necessitated by the fact that the Thinker/DeVoe arc simply doesn’t have enough meat on its bones to sustain a full season. If the result of that is more relatively standalone episodes, that may not be such a bad thing.

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Stray observations

  • Thanks to Allison Shoemaker for filling in for me while Captain Cold had me trapped in Houston. She nailed it, and I have nothing to add about that ridiculous trial.
  • Ralph finally gets his real super-name (and, mercifully, costume), although it happens by accident. Fed up with being called “Stretchy Man,” Ralph expounds on his abilities for a reporter, and a misheard quote (“I elongate, man”) leads to him being dubbed Elongated Man. It’s always been one of the more inelegant monikers in the DC universe, so you can’t blame the writers for hanging a lampshade on it here.
  • That’s WWE star Bill Goldberg as Barry’s new prison buddy Big Sir.
  • Everyone except Ralph has heard of Kryptonite. I guess Supergirl must have mentioned it in passing.
  • Thoughts on the excitable Jitters customer paying it forward for Cisco and Ralph, then scribbling a bunch of weird symbols in her notebook?

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